Jinxed Invitation Cup ends on a sour note
The 2015 version of the Indian Turf Invitation Cup extravaganza which was first abandoned, then rescheduled and finally cancelled last Sunday, continued its jinx as piping hot favourite public fancy Be Safe, trained by Malesh Narredu and ridden by his nephew Suraj, lost the Indian Turf Invitation Cup to Quasar, trained by the same trainer and ridden by his son Yash. The shock result, and the manner in which jockey Suraj handled the public fancy, angered the crowds who went on rampage, throwing stones and beer bottles at horses and riders, and smashing the windshield of the vintage car that was specially brought in to take the Turf Authority of Indian (TAI) members to the presentation dais set up on the main racetrack.
The crowd’s violent reaction stemmed from the fact that only a month ago Be Safe, without working up sweat, had shattered the record timing for the mile-and-a-half trip when winning the Signature Indian Derby on the same track, and the same Quasar had then finished nearly five lengths behind him on that occasion. The public felt Be Safe, tipped unanimously by experts as almost invincible, either lost due to an ill-judged, or worse—deliberately bad--ride given by Suraj Narredu. This writer however felt Suraj perhaps focused too much on Amazing Grace (P Trevor up) who was billed as the only horse who could possibly run close to the champion Derby winner.
Young Yash Narredu astride winner Quasar stalked the pace-setter Agostini even as Trevor settled Amazing Grace in mid-bunch, with Suraj content to race near the wrong end of the procession for most part of the trip. Quasar was travelling so well Yash cleverly decided to assume command passing the 800-meter marker, while Suraj moved up slightly around the final turn but did not put Be Safe into top gear as Amazing Grace, despite Trevor putting pressure, was struggling to produce her trademark acceleration. It soon became clear Amazing Grace was not going to be concerned at the finish, and Suraj, perhaps alarmed that Quasar was still going well and he had more than 5 lengths to cover with just over a furlong to go, used the whip on Be Safe who started devouring ground with absolutely incredible strides but finally was shy by half a length at the wire.
The scene turned so ugly after Quasar’s victory that even the police had a tough time controlling the unruly mob who shouted slogans against the Narredus, resulting in both trainer Malesh Narredu and his son Yash Narredu unable to make it to the award ceremony dais to receive the trophies, and Be Safe’s rider Suraj Narredu had to opt out of his next ride in the Deltin Casinos Stayers’ Cup as Neeraj Rawal substituted him astride Wind Stream.
Jockey Suraj Narredu, in an exclusive post-race chat, told mid-day that in his opinion, the shock result was more to do with luck of the race than his misjudgement as a rider.
“In a race of this kind, a jockey has to take call on a millisecond basis,” said Suraj, “keeping the front runners in sight, I moved up Be Safe to get close to Amazing Grace and Alaindair after turning for home, and expected them to make their move any moment, but by the time I realized they were not gaining the required momentum, I was a bit alarmed and wasted no time in going after Quasar. If you see, my horse responded very well, but the winning post came to winner’s rescue.”